Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

The Match Off the Field

Acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi scores with his vibrant new film, Offside.

Jafar Panahi has always had a knack for paradox, so it's no surprise that the Iranian director's latest film, Offside , should center on the clash of wills in a soccer match while never quite revealing the action. For the most part, the camera is trained on a group of young women penned up just outside a crucial game -- the 2005 Iran-Bahrain World Cup qualifier. A soccer movie with no soccer, a verité film with allegorical ambitions, a piece of populist entertainment merged with political ideas, Offside is fueled by seeming contradiction. The axis of opposition in the movie is between Offside 's two "teams" -- the gang of girls who have dressed up as boys to see the game, and the guards who have to cope with them. It's an easy set up for screeching, and, Offside being an Iranian film --where censor-dodging verbiage or existential silence substitute for scenes with explicit or "immoral" content -- there is a good lot of that. But Panahi seems to exemplify the old Fitzgerald adage about...

Spidey Senseless

The third time is very rarely the charm, and the angst-filled Spider-Man 3 -- all plot holes and Band-Aids -- is no exception.

Spider-Man 3 is a great bellowing bore of a film -- the perfect opener for what's sure to be a summer of diminishing cinematic returns. The first of the film franchises to hit the theaters ( Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3, 28 Weeks Later will follow), Spider-Man 3 has an advanced case of sequel-itis, which occurs when directors try to gussy up their leftovers with CGI-effects, characters, hideous cameos, subplots and fashion flimflam, as if more were always more. And indeed, Sony Pictures seems to have thrown in mo' money in search of mo' honey -- the much-disputed estimate soars to $350 million, by some accounts -- which would make this over-hyped number the most expensive film of all time. And for what? SM3 toes the now-familiar trope of the squashy superhero -- the broody Batman , sulky Superman , a Hulk with daddy issues. Just in case we've forgotten our adolescent angst, SM3 swings in to remind us that with great power comes great pop psychologizing. Expectations were high...

Look Out

We see you, voyeur. Behind a camera, at a peephole, stalking, brooding -- you're a metaphor for surveillance states, urban alienation, and lonely sensation. When we can see you, as in The Lives of Others and Rear Window , we identify with you, squirm in complicity, and gaze with our own dirty delight at your gazing. Even when we don't see you, as in Caché , we are forced to see the world through your cold gaze, as if you were an unforgiving eye from our conscience. Red Road is the latest film to put us behind that peephole -- in this case, a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) screen. The first part of this Prix du Jury winner at Cannes takes place behind a whole bank of glowing monitors, each presenting the bleakest, greyest scenery imaginable -- the housing projects of Glasgow, Scotland. Ensconced behind her screens, CCTV monitor and security guard Jackie (veteran television and theater actor Kate Dickie) seems a sad but benevolent presence. She sits with a shadowy smile, watching a stout...

Fighting Irish

The scene seems ordinary at first -- ruddy-cheeked boys at a game of hurling, an expanse of green, postcard Ireland. There are a few flickers of roughness in the game, just enough to keep an edge under the idyll. But nothing can prepare viewers for the violence that rends the opening scene of Ken Loach's Cannes-honored The Wind That Shakes the Barley , when British henchmen break up the gathering with explosive force. The violence in Loach's newest film, about the Irish rebellion and civil war, is masterful -- it has the sort of spastic randomness and confusion that inspires real terror. Wracked with incomprehensible screaming, the sense that one's life hangs on the whim of a madman, the gunfights and police searches in this film lack one whit of glossiness. Loach has choreographed violence verité . Loach is known for his semi-improvised work, and a fiercely political -- some would say polemical -- sensibility. Over the course of more than 20 films in the last 40 years, his characters...

Under Surveillance

The Lives of Others , which won the Oscar for best foreign film on Sunday, opens by drawing back the curtain on a secret scene -- an interrogation performed by a member of the Stasi, the monstrously efficient East German secret police, in the mid-1980s. The film's inquisitor, Captain Gerd Wiesler, is almost a caricature of the totalitarian apparatchik -- bloodlessly precise, by turns sinister and seductive as the interrogation requires. The scene cuts back and forth between the actual interrogation and a Stasi college classroom, where Wiesler is playing an audio tape of the session to a group of eager students. Wiesler dissects the dialogue for their edification, as the exhausted suspect on the tape begins to repeat his testimony word for word before finally breaking and confessing. "A liar," explains Wiesler, stopping the tape, "has prepared statements." It's a rote performance, in other words, and Wiesler is the harshest kind of critic. As dry as it is, Wiesler's observation touches...

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